“It ain’t over till it’s over,” the great Yogi Berra once said – or is said to have said. Western New Yorkers can add a corollary: It’s not begun until it’s begun. The absorption of Medaille University by Trocaire College, announced with fanfare just last month, died aborning.
The reason is wrapped in secrecy, but it came hardly a week after Medaille revealed that the arrangement would cost jobs at its Buffalo and Rochester campuses. Although the exact number of layoffs wasn’t specified, the university told the state Labor Department that 419 positions could be affected.
That would have been a shame, but the fact is that post-secondary education, especially among private institutions, is under tremendous, unrelenting strain. Pain seems a given and what awaits Medaille now is a mystery and a worry.
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Trocaire President Bassam Deeb didn’t say why the deal fell through. “Efforts towards completing an asset purchase between Trocaire College and Medaille University have terminated,” he said in a statement. “This is not the outcome we strived for as significant human and financial resources have been invested by both institutions in the attempt to consummate the proposed transaction.”
Medaille interim President Lori V. Quigley also expressed regrets, but said confidentiality provisions barred it from revealing the reason that this monthslong effort suddenly collapsed. The university’s board of trustees planned to meet on Friday and Quigley promised that the university “will inform our students, faculty, staff and community of any decisions made.”
All universities are facing harsh arithmetic. It’s happening at SUNY Buffalo State, at SUNY Erie Community College at it’s happening at Medaille and other private institutions in Western New York.
Enrollment is falling and, starting in 2025, it’s expected to crater. That’s when post-secondary education is predicted to reach the “enrollment cliff,” when the number of 18-year-olds graduating high school is forecast to fall dramatically and for the foreseeable future.
For public institutions, tax dollars will likely ease that challenge. Private colleges and universities are facing a more unforgiving fiscal environment. Complicating their path toward better fiscal health is that some offer similar programs to other facilities.
The best approach to dealing with these hurdles is through consolidations. The worst is closures. The former didn’t work for Medaille. Here’s hoping it avoids the latter.
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